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Judge Dismisses Suit Against Cambridge’s Cycling Safety Ordinance

1:57 PM EDT on March 13, 2023

A bike rider rides along a flexpost-protected bike lane next to a sidewalk cafe on one side and a line of cars waiting in traffic on the other side of the bus lane, on the left edge of the photo.

Massachusetts Avenue in North Cambridge, near Gold Star Road, in May 2022, shortly after the installation of new bike and bus lanes.

Last week, a Middlesex County Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit that sought to overturn the city's landmark Cycling Safety Ordinance, which requires the city to install physically-separated bike lanes on a number of the city's major streets by 2026.

A group calling itself Cambridge Streets For All was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, along with several individual Cambridge residents and small business owners.

The group first filed their complaint on June 10, 2022, a few weeks after Cambridge City Councilors endorsed a plan to build protected bike lanes on most of Massachusetts Avenue in order to comply with the city's Cycling Safety Ordinance, which sets a rigorous timeline for the city to complete a comprehensive network of protected bike lanes across the city within the next three years.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that "the Cycling Safety Ordinance has caused huge damage to the community" because the new bike lanes (and, in some cases, new bus lanes) have reduced the amount of on-street parking that's available for car and truck owners to store their privately-owned property on public streets.

The plaintiffs also alleged that the Cycling Safety Ordinance "infringes upon the rights, privileges and immunities of (Cambridge Streets for All), its members and all citizens of Cambridge by undue interference with the right to free movement, the right to enjoy property, and to prevent the deprivation of property without due process of law."

In a memorandum accompanying her decision to dismiss the case, Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Maureen Hogan rejected that claim, observing that the Cycling Safety Ordinance "does not prohibit individuals from visiting any businesses or residences, and the Plaintiffs have not plausibly suggested facts to the contrary."

"It's unclear what our next steps are going to be. There's a lot to absorb," Cambridge Streets for All chairperson Joan Pickett told StreetsblogMASS in a phone conversation last Friday.

The Cambridge Streets for All lawsuit had also sought an injunction to halt and reverse the city's installation of new bike lanes in 2022.

That injunction, which the court rejected on June 30 of last year, asserted that the plaintiffs would "suffer immediate and irreparable harm" if the injunction was not granted, because "their property, businesses, and professional services cannot continue to exist if the current bike lanes are maintained and the planned new ones installed."

One of the plaintiffs, Leesteffy Jenkins, is the owner of Violette Bakers near Porter Square, just one block south of the new Porter Square protected bike lanes that the city installed last summer.

Contrary to the lawsuit's claims, Violette Bakers is still operating at that location. Jenkins did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Another plaintiff, Christine Perkins, identified herself in a court affidavit as the owner of Pyara Spa and Salon at the junction of Mass. Ave. and Mt. Auburn Street, just east of Harvard Square.

"Removal of parking is causing and will continue to cause significant harm to my business," asserted Perkins in her affidavit.

Unlike Violette, Pyara Spa and Salon did have to close one of its store locations in 2020, the same year the City of Cambridge installed new protected bikeways and other safety improvements on several streets around Harvard Square after drivers killed Darryl Willis, 55, and Sharon Hamer, 67, in two separate crashes.

However, the shuttered Pyara Spa and Salon location was not located in Harvard Square. It was located in a strip mall in Burlington that is surrounded by a large, free parking lot, miles away from the nearest protected bike lane.

Pyara Spa and Salon's Massachusetts Avenue location in Cambridge remains open for business.

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